Spanish Grand Prix


Spanish GP race report

2016 Spanish Grand Prix – race report

"A bittersweet end to an eventful race"

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Sunday May 15

Jenson Button finished ninth in a Spanish Grand Prix that was dominated by thrill and incident.

Starting 12th, Jenson made a perfect getaway to dive ahead of two cars into the first corner. When the two leaders collided at Turn Four, he finished the first lap in eighth position. From there, he managed his tyres through the race, resisted the pressure from his chasing team-mate Fernando Alonso, pulled off a feisty overtake on Esteban Gutierrez at Turn 10 on lap 61, and maintained his pace ahead of a fast-closing Daniil Kvyat, who was gaining fast on far fresher rubber.

By his own admission, Fernando didn’t make a good start, but shadowed Jenson, and ran inside the top 10, for much of the race. Unfortunately, he retired on lap 45, when sitting in 12th, preparing to charge for a top-10 finishing position in the final laps.


Started: 10th
Finished: DNF - 45 laps
Fastest Lap: 1m29.750s on lap 41 (+2.802s, 13th)
Pitstops: Two: lap 11 (2.41s) and 40 (3.40s) [Opt/Pri]

“My car felt okay this afternoon, but I didn’t manage to make a good start and lost everything – so my race was effectively over by the first corner. 

“After that, I followed Jenson for 50 laps and had traffic all race long, so I wasn’t able to do too many laps in free air or show my true pace.

“At the end, I lost power somehow – we don’t know the exact cause.

“We weren’t able to capitalise on our reasonable level of competitiveness. With both Mercedes out, we had a good opportunity to score some points today, but we didn’t manage it, so we need to keep improving.”


Started: 12th
Finished: 9th
Fastest Lap: 1m30.260s on lap 39 (+3.312s, 18th)
Pitstops: Two: lap 10 (2.63s) and 37 (3.13s) [Opt/Pri/Pri] 

“It’s a shame that Fernando retired, because we were having a good battle out there.”

“I had a great start – it must’ve been the best getaway out there! 

“But it wasn’t a very easy race for me. There was no grip at all out there – and, whatever we did, we struggled. But, equally, the leaders weren’t very quick at the end, which made it really difficult for me to manage the situation because Dany [Kvyat] was right behind Seb [Vettel] and Ricci Bobby [Daniel Ricciardo], and he was on fresh rubber. Fortunately, I was just quick enough to stay ahead of those cars, and he couldn’t jump me.

“We knew it was going to be difficult to score points here, so this result wasn’t too bad.” 

ERIC BOULLIER - Racing director, McLaren-Honda

“Such was the drama of today’s Spanish Grand Prix that few spectators or TV viewers will probably have paid much attention to Jenson’s calm and well-judged run to ninth place – another points-scoring result following immediately after our double-points-scoring success in Sochi two weeks ago.

“Disappointingly for the local fans, Fernando was unable to score points today, owing to a software command issue that stopped the ICE. Until that moment he’d been driving hard and well, and, but for the problem that ended his race, may well have also finished inside the top 10. 

“However, as I’ve said before, mere points aren’t what we at McLaren-Honda are all about – podiums, wins and championships are what float our boat, and undoubtedly they’ll come. I’ll make no predictions about the next race, the unique challenge that is the Monaco Grand Prix, but you may rest assured that we’ll be gunning for a decent result on the notoriously unforgiving streets of the famous Principality. 

“Last but not least, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate young Max [Verstappen], who today became the youngest Grand Prix winner in Formula 1 history, a record held for the past eight years by Sebastian, for the five years before that by Fernando, and for no fewer than 44 years before that by the founder of our company, the great Bruce McLaren.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA - Honda R&D head of F1 project & executive chief engineer

“It was a bittersweet end to an eventful Spanish Grand Prix. Fernando’s retirement was caused by a software command issue that stopped the ICE. We think that the power unit as a whole is not damaged from this incident, but we will continue to investigate the effects of this stop. Obviously we will work with the team to see how this kind of situation can be avoided in the races going forward. 

“Jenson started brilliantly, but, on the whole, it was a long and difficult race for him, trying to save tyres while fending off the competition and maintaining position. Therefore, it was a pleasure to see him finish in the points after a difficult weekend.”


2016 Spanish Grand Prix preview


#14 Fernando Alonso

“It’s notoriously difficult to overtake in Barcelona, so it’s important to get a good start and stay out of trouble on the first lap. After that, it’s a case of getting the strategy right, managing the tyre wear and maximising performance at the right times.

“It’s a fast circuit, so it’s certainly demanding for both the car and driver. The power unit, too, has to work very hard with such high average speeds. As always, reliability is a priority first and foremost, but I hope that the chassis upgrades we’ll test on Friday will see us continue to push race by race, and allow us to keep fighting towards the front alongside our rivals in the midfield.”

#22 Jenson Button

“The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is not a circuit that would traditionally suit us, since it’s fairly hard on both the chassis and the power units, but I feel I have a solid car underneath me, and we’re putting in pretty consistent performances on a variety of circuits, even if our results don’t necessarily reflect all the work that’s going on back at base. 

“In Barcelona it’s a long run down to Turn One, so I hope I can get a better start than I did in Sochi and avoid any tangles. For the race, the track surface is very abrasive and tyre wear is high, so it’ll be interesting to see how strategies play out with the softer tyre compounds we’re taking there, and learn to manage them effectively as the weekend progresses.”


2015 winner Nico Rosberg, 66 laps, 1:41:12.555s
2015 pole position Nico Rosberg, 1m24.681s
2015 fastest lap Lewis Hamilton, 1m28.270s, (lap 54)
Name Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
First race 1991
Circuit length  4.655km/2.892 miles  
Distance to Turn One 730m/0.454 miles (longest of the season)
Longest straight  1.047km/0.651 miles, on the approach to Turn One 
Top speed 345km/h/214mph, on the approach to Turn One  
Pitlane length 330m/0.206 miles, estimated time loss 22s
Full throttle 63 per cent 
DRS zones Two, on the approaches to Turns One and 10
Key corner Turn Three, an uphill right-hander, through which the cars accelerate from 180km/h (112mph) to 260km/h (162mph). To be fast through here, a car needs a good high-speed balance
Fastest corner  265km/h (165mph), Turn Nine
Slowest corner 75km/h (47mph), Turn 10
Major changes for 2016 No major changes
Fuel consumption 1.7kg per lap, making it fairly average
ERS demands Medium
Brake wear Medium. There are eight braking events around the lap, but only two big stops, into Turns One and 10 
Gear changes 44 per lap/2904 per race



History lesson: 
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has been a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar since 1991. Such is the track’s eclectic mix of corners, it has become F1’s preferred testing venue, but it hasn’t always hosted motorised events. It was one of the many building projects ahead of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, during which the track hosted the time-trial cycling events.

What makes the track unique: 
The number of medium and high-speed corners. Only three of the circuit’s 16 turns are taken at less than 100km/h (62mph) and the result is an average speed of 200km/h (124mph).

Grip levels: 
High. The asphalt is old and abrasive, which means grip levels are good. So good, in fact, that the front-left tyre gets worked really hard through the fast right-hander, Turn Three.

Medium. The track was built in 1991, so it cannot be described as old, but it precedes the modern obsession with asphalt run-off areas. For that reason, there is still a lot of gravel and, in a few places, not huge amounts of run-off. 

Watch out for…: 
Turn Nine. This is a very fast right-hander, taken in sixth gear at 165km/h (103mph). Drivers need to be extremely accurate with their steering inputs and throttle applications, or, at best, they risk losing a lot of time down the ensuing straight.



Start time 14:00hrs local/13:00hrs BST
Race distance 66 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/49.5 laps)
Safety Car likelihood 35 per cent. If there is a Safety Car, the history of this race would suggest that it’ll come on the opening lap
When to press record Lap One. Overtaking is difficult around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, even with two DRS zones, so drivers tend to be aggressive on the opening lap. That sometimes results in contact and the emergence of the Safety Car
Don’t put the kettle on On or around laps 15 and 25. Last year’s race was won with a two-stop strategy, but that could turn out to be different in 2016 because Pirelli are taking their soft-compound tyres to the race for the first time, which could force more pitstops
Weather conditions now   17 degrees and cloudy
Race forecast 20 degrees
Tyre choices Soft/Medium/Hard, the first time this year that this combination has been used



First Spanish Grand Prix: 

Spain's F1 heritage 
This race is one of the most established on the F1 calendar, but it was only when Fernando Alonso started to win races that the sport became engrained in the national psyche. Barcelona is the sixth Spanish venue to host a world championship grand prix, after Pedralbes, Montjuic Park, Jarama, Jerez and Valencia.

Smallest winning margin  
0.014s, at Jerez in 1986. A late pitstop for fresh tyres saw Nigel Mansell fall 20s behind race leader Ayrton Senna with nine laps to go. Mansell drove some electrifying laps, but he was just beaten by Senna – the second smallest winning margin in F1 history. 

Sporting legacy
Motorbike racing was the most popular form of motorsport in Spain, until Fernando Alonso made his F1 debut in 2001. Such was his popularity when he started to win races that there were two races in Spain for four years, one in Barcelona and the other in Valencia, but the country could only financially sustain one race, which left Barcelona.

Did you know? 
Until 2005 only world champions had won around Barcelona. The sequence was broken by Kimi Räikkönen, who went on to become world champion in ’07.

Don’t forget 
Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button have both won races in Spain. Fernando took victories in 2006 and ’13 at Barcelona and ’12 in Valencia; Jenson won at Barcelona in 2009.  

Fan zone
Steve, aged 28, from Ontario, asks: “Does the use of motorhomes at the European races make your life easier than at the long haul races?”
McLaren’s answer: “The motorhomes themselves don’t make life easier because we have everything that we need at the long distance races. What’s easier in Europe is the proximity of the MTC; we can transport new parts and spares to the track overnight, if necessary, without having to worry about air freight. This is one of the reasons why the teams tend to bring performance upgrades to this race.”



#14 Fernando Alonso

“After an eventful few races, and after a good result for us in Russia, I’m looking forward to going ‘home’ to Barcelona and race in my country in front of my home fans. The atmosphere there is always incredible for any Spanish driver, and I have some very special memories from my wins there in 2012 and 2013. 

“We’re still learning a lot about our package as we visit each track, so it’s useful that we already have a lot of data from testing there that we can use to understand its characteristics and how our car will react to them. Our performance in qualifying is something we’re working on all the time, to give us the best chance in the race. Getting into Q3 will certainly be difficult at this track, but, with the Spanish fans behind me, that’s got to be our aim.”

#22 Jenson Button

“It’s exciting to start the European season off the back of a positive race for the whole team in Sochi. There’s definitely a feeling in the camp that we’re making progress, so I’m hopeful that we can continue this momentum in Barcelona. 

“It’s always exciting to come back to Europe for the first race in Spain. The fans are always incredibly enthusiastic, and there’s a very familiar feel at this circuit as we spend so much more time there than in other places. We have some more new parts to test on the car again for this race, so I hope we can see another positive step in our performance over the weekend.”


Eric Boullier
McLaren-Honda Racing Director

“Our double points finish in Sochi was certainly a motivating factor for the whole team back in Woking, Sakura and Milton Keynes, but it’s only just the start of an upward curve that we hope to continue riding for the rest of the season.

“In Russia, there’s no doubt we gained from others’ misfortune in some ways, but both our drivers report positively about the balance of the car, which reassures us that we’ve created a solid foundation, and that we can have faith in the direction in which we’re going.

“We’re always impatient for more, but I’m pleased that the hard work consistently being undertaken behind the scenes was finally rewarded with some valuable points, and we head into the European season hopeful of scoring some more positive results at circuits on which our car should theoretically be slightly stronger. That, coupled with an unrelenting development programme, is exciting and gives us optimism for the next few races ahead. 

“It certainly won’t be easy – while we’ll be evaluating upgrades to the car in Barcelona, so will many other teams – but the loyal Spanish fans will be behind Fernando and the team, and we hope to put on a good show for them and carry some positive momentum into the European season.”

Yusuke Hasegawa
Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

"The Spanish Grand Prix marks the beginning of a busy European summer season for Formula 1, and after the eventful first four flyaway races and a double points finish in Russia, it’s good to see everyone in such high spirits and enjoying the camaraderie within the team.

“The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a technical circuit that is less strenuous on the power unit compared to the first four races, but much more stressful on the balance of the car. From a power unit perspective, it is important to have the correct amount of deployment, harvesting and throttle response, so our focus will be to deliver the best balance to suit the needs of our drivers.

“Our power unit development is ongoing and we have not yet confirmed to which races we will bring token updates, but hopefully we can fight for more points during Sunday’s race."


Spanish GP race map

2016 Spanish Grand Prix

If Formula 1 could be said to have a home venue, then the Circuit de Catalunya is it. Host venue of the Spanish Grand Prix for a quarter of a century, the circuit is also F1’s favoured test track. This year it will host both weeks of pre-season testing. Good facilities, advantageous logistics and climate contribute to F1’s frequent testing presence in Barcelona, but plenty of other circuits in Mediterranean Europe fit that description. The Circuit de Catalunya also has the advantage of being as close to the nominal F1 circuit as the sport possesses.

Barcelona has something of everything: a long main straight, high speed corners in the first sector, medium speed in the second and a slow, technical complex to end the lap. It’s a high downforce power track that’s also tough on tyres – all of which leads to a perception that a car that runs well at the Circuit de Catalunya is likely to be good everywhere. The statistics bear that out: rarely does the winning car in Spain not go on to claim the Constructors’ Championship.

That hasn’t necessarily translated into great races, however, with the perception being that familiarity dials out some of the variables. To date, 19 of the 25 races have been won from pole position –though Pirelli’s tyre philosophy and the arrival of the DRS have greatly improved the show in the last few years.

It hasn’t been a particularly rewarding circuit for McLaren, providing only four of the team’s eight Spanish Grand Prix victories – though the four did include a memorable hat-trick for Mika Häkkinen in the years 1998-2000. Jenson won here in 2009 but undoubtedly the all-time most popular victories here were Fernando’s wins in 2006 and 2013.



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